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How long are female cats in heat?
It depends. It's not a one-size-fits-all answer. A cat doesn't "stay in heat" for the same amount of time, and every kitty has different needs. Some are in heat constantly, and others have much shorter periods of interest.
It's also more than just a "one day." There are many periods when a cat can be considered in heat for varying lengths of time.
Most of this is determined by two factors.
The estrous cycle. The period of time between each heat is affected by
the length of the estrous cycle.
The type of season. There are seasons where a cat's cycle isn't
regular, and seasons where it's longer or shorter. Cats who are in
lupine, "hibernating" season are known for this.
Estrous cycle length
A cat's estrous cycle lasts between 4-7 days, meaning that a cat has heat one day, but not for the entire time. During this time, a cat will show interest in any male cat. However, many cats (and a lot of cats) experience cycles with longer length than 7 days. The time it takes to be ovulated and ready to reproduce, however, remains constant.
The following chart was adapted from this website, and the chart's accuracy is verified there.
Seasonal estrous cycle length
In the following chart, a lupine season lasts two months. When a season changes, a cat will begin cycling. When a cat begins cycling, her interest in other cats may stay consistent or diminish.
The same website also has a calendar with the exact dates.
In the next section, we will study the various types of seasons.
When a cat is in hibernation, she is more interested in finding her way home than looking for a potential mate. When a cat is in hibernation, she is in a "lupine" season. Because of this, they are much less likely to respond to other cats. There are a few exceptions, but they aren't common.
It can be dangerous to be approached or petted by a cat who is in hibernation, as they might snap. They are also more likely to injure themselves on their way to find food. If they have food, then that's all the motivation they need to use it. However, most cats in lupine will approach or pet humans if they feel safe doing so. If you are concerned, simply hold a blanket out for them to warm up and approach.
Other seasonal variations
In the lupine season, other things that occur will also change. Most common of these changes is to cats. If your cat is in lupine season, you may find her hiding in dark places and not want to make much noise or get near her. It can be very frustrating, especially if she's out on her favorite "rover" patrol and you don't see her.
Winter is a very interesting time for cats. One of the easiest ways to tell if a cat is in hibernation is by her food consumption. If she isn't eating, she's probably not hungry. If she's eating, then she's probably in lupine and less interested in searching for food. A food dish, however, doesn't always mean she's eating. You can put food in a dish, but some cats prefer to go out in the cold to do their business. They don't need their food, but they might need to relieve themselves.
You can even watch to see if your cat needs to go out. Look out the window. If you see your cat standing next to the window staring outside, then she probably needs to go outside. Make sure the window is closed and she doesn't have any means to get out, like a doggie door. If your cat is very active, she probably isn't resting.
For instance, if your cat is on her bed, is she lying down or standing and looking around the room? If you see her standing, then she's probably not resting. If she's not looking at something, then she may not need to get up and move. If she is standing and looking at something, she might be getting into trouble and needs to move on. In the end, it may not be as easy to tell if your cat needs to go outside as some people think it is.
If your cat has other habits or behaviors you would like to know about, don't hesitate to let us know by posting them on our Facebook page. It's like an open forum that you can ask questions, read comments, and even discuss ways you can help your cat. Remember, the only thing a cat needs is to be loved. So do your part by showing your cat how much she means to you.
You can find our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Felidae-Pet-Homes/140723231768?fref=ts
Please share your stories, questions and other comments with us. Remember, it's the only way we can make sure cats get the care and attention they deserve!